Random Thoughts on the role of the Dandy in Zweig and elsewhere.
There are still a few days left in German Literature Month. Still time to join in. There are many great posts, reading through them is much like a fine class in German literature at a top academy. Take your Ipad with you and read them while you have a treat from Mendl's, relaxing in the lobby of The Grand Budapest Hotel, circa 1932. If you need anything, just ask the concierge.
Works I have so far read for German Literature Month 2014
1. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
2. Gertrude by Hermann Hesse
3. "Diary of a School Boy" by Robert Walser (no post)
4. Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse
5. Burning Secret by Stefan Zweig 1925
6. Life Goes On by Hans Keilson
7. Comedy in a Minor Key by Hans Keilson
8. "The Wall" by Jurek Becker
9. "Romeo" by Jurek Becker
10. "The Invisible City" by Jurek Becker.
11. Wittgenstein's Nephew by Thomas Bernhard
12. "Dostoevsky's Idiot" by Robert Walser
13. "French Newspapers" by Robert Wasler
14. Jakob the Lier by Jurek Becker
15. The Trial by Franz Kafka 1915,
16. "The Seamstress" by Rainer Maria Rilke 1894
17. "The Experiement or the Victory of Children" by Unica Zürn 1950
18. "The Star Above the Forest" by Stefan Zweig. 1924
19. "Saint Cecilia or the Power of Music" by Heinrich von Kleist 1810
20. Amok by Stefan Zweig 1923
21. Concrete 1982
22. "Kleist in Thun" by Robert Walser 1913
23. "Incident at Lake Geneva" by Stefan Zweig (1924)
24. "The Governess" by Stefan Zweig 1927
25. "The Sandman" by E. T. A. Hoffmann 1817
26. "The Secrets of the Princess of Kagran" by Ingeborg Bachmann 1971
27. "Twilight" by Stefan Zweig 1928
28. "The Lunatic" by Georg Heym 1913
29. "Dissection" by Georg Heym 1913 - no post
30. "Blackbird" by Robert Musil
31. "The Kiss" by Robert Walser 1914. - no post
32. "The Suspect" by Jurek Becker. 1980,
33. "A Favorite Family Story" by Jurek Becker 1982
34. "Moonbeam Alley" by Stefan Zweig. 1928
35. "Flower Days". By Robert Walser, 1911, no post.
36. "Fantastic Night" by Stefan Zweig
"Fantastic Night", at seventy pages it can be seen as a novella, is at times a wonderful and at times a maddening short story. The story is told by a thirty six year old dandy, set in Vienna in 1910. He has inherited enough wealth to live a life revolving around self-cultivation, pleasure seeking, and leads a life many would envy with no cares or responsibilities. Every since I read Declan Kiberd's examination of the role of the dandy in European literature, in Inventing Ireland: The Literature of the Modern Nation, I have come to the dandy as a central figure in European literature. Kiberd says the consummate "dandy novel" is A Sentimental Education. In Search of Lost Time can be seen as centering on the life of a dandy. The figure of the dandy is tied in with camp and cross sexual literature but the relationships are complicated. In contemporary writers, you can find a brilliant treatment of the dandy in the short stories of the greatest of living Irish writers, Desmond Hogan. Viennese society and that of the Weimer period in Germany are almost cultures of the dandy. All this is complicated and could take us into very deep waters. Many dandy's fled Europe, as did Zweig, some joined the Nazis, many passed in concentration camps. In a way Stefan Zweig and Joseph Roth are versions of the dandy, but then maybe Roth is the anti-dandy! Anyway "Fantastic Nighf" for sure belongs in the literature of the dandy. The dandy needs ever increasing stimulations, more and more extreme experiences. Think of the spiral of Dorian Gray. As I read this work I asked myself does this story ring true, my answer was yes sometimes. Similar forces that drive some dandy's to be gay drive others to become womanizers and conisueurs of prostitues. Think James Boswell. Basing my thoughts on The Impossible Exhile - Stefan Zweig at the End of the World by George Prochnik, a must read book, Zweig fits neatly into this pattern. The more I think on it the more the literature of Germania and the Austro-Hungarian Empire seems permeated by the figure of the dandy. With destruction of the empire and the protective culture of Vienna, the world of the dandy went into steep decline, almost driven underground.
Mel von ü